Parker Whitney expands ranch's use

Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
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Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series on Whitney Ranch. By the early 1870s George Whitney and four of his six sons had expanded their sheep ranch to about 18,000 acres bordered very roughly by Lincoln and Roseville on the north and south, by Rocklin and the transcontinental tracks on the east and by the tracks near today’s Thunder Valley Casino on the west. The youngest son, Joel Parker Whitney (better known as Parker), had become wealthy mainly from investments in Colorado mines and real estate. He gained exclusive control of the ranch when his father started into retirement in 1873. And even though Parker continued to attend to his international business pursuits, the ranch started to absorb his creativity. He brought water to the land, mainly via Gold Rush era mining ditches, and began to diversify away from the sheep business into other agricultural activities. During this period homesteader Otis T. Brown was raising figs and Muscat grapes in the horseshoe shaped valley, known as Brown’s Valley, near the eastern border of the ranch. This is the site of today’s Whitney Oaks Golf Course and the surrounding homes. Brown refused to sell his valley to Parker, but Parker continued to provide Brown with Whitney Ranch water from five cisterns around the valley’s rim. In 1877 Brown’s Valley and Parker’s own vineyard to the north produced the first carload of raisins ever shipped from California to the eastern states. Brown eventually leased his valley to Parker for $25 per month and finally sold it to him in 1901. By the late 1870s Parker had a firm grip on ranch affairs and was traveling frequently to Europe on business. There he started to court Lucy Chadwick in England. By 1878, the couple began thinking about raising a family at Parker’s Rocklin ranch. Gary Day is a member of the Rocklin Area Historical Society.